GLOWING tributes have poured in for the “truly inspirational” ex-England and Dorchester coach Mike Davis, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 80.

Davis coached England to Grand Slam success in 1980 and also enjoyed a highly-respectable playing career in which is chalked up 16 caps for England between 1963 and 1970.

He gave Sir Clive Woodward his first England cap, Woodward later going on to win the World Cup with England in 2003.

Davis also represented the Royal Navy, Devon and Staffordshire, Devonport Services plus London giants Harlequins as a player.

READ MORE: England and Dorchester legend Mike Davis passes away aged 80

And he led a rugby renaissance at Dorchester from 1997 to 2003, pulling together a team that the then captain Martin Bartlett described as “struggling”, building them into a league-winning side and improving every individual in that squad.

Taking the club to promotion in 1999 and to within one game of a Twickenham final in the NPI cup in 2000, was followed by another promotion.

Dorchester played at their highest level under Davis, in South West One and topping the league table for a time.

Former players have led tributes to him, calling him “the greatest man I ever met, and a truly inspirational coach.”

Bartlett said of his former coach and mentor: “Mike was genuinely one of the nicest men you’ve ever met.

“A true legend of the club and he made all he coached at our club far better players than they ever thought they could ever have dreamed of.

“He was simply known in the changing room as ‘God’. We owe him a lot and will never let his memory fade here. Our thoughts and condolences go out to all his family and friends.”

Dorset Echo: Mike Davis won 16 caps for England as a player before coaching them to Grand Slam success in 1980 Picture: WORLD RUGBY MUSEUMMike Davis won 16 caps for England as a player before coaching them to Grand Slam success in 1980 Picture: WORLD RUGBY MUSEUM

Dorchester club chairman, Tony Foot, described Davis as a “gentle giant”.

“Mike was with us for a relatively short time, but those six years brought a great professionalism and massive knowledge to the club,” he said.

“He led us to our highest ever position in South West One, and in doing so gave us many great players to build on.

“Mike was a real gentleman and in fact a gentle giant, an England second row, and a great coach.

“He will be forever held in the highest esteem at the club for how he improved our side in a very short space of time, and indeed the legacy he left behind.

“When he spoke everyone listened, and at the same time took all the knowledge in and understood his point.

“My thoughts go out to Mike’s family and friends.”

Dorchester president, Bob Andrews, added: “Mike was an outstanding coach who was able to effortlessly engage players of all ages and abilities and bring out the best in every single one of them.

“I never heard him once start a sentence with: ‘When I played for England’, ‘When I coached England’.

“He was truly a humble man, but he had such charisma and presence that you instantly knew that he was a man to be trusted.

“Mike’s coaching was always structured and considered, this included the way he spoke with players, his words were always positive and encouraging, he never used the ‘hair dryer’ method, sadly beloved by some coaches.

“That is not to say he wasn’t passionate, he was absolutely a winner, he suffered as much as the players when results did not go our way, but he always concentrated on the positives in every encounter.

“The only occasion I can remember where even Mike’s legendary self-control was severely tested was following a particularly poor performance at Aylesbury RFC when he left immediately following the final whistle.

“Later that weekend when I spoke with Mike, he told me that: ‘If you can’t say anything positive then don’t say anything, so I followed my own advice and left’. That was the measure of the man.

“Apart from being the finest coach that the club has had the good fortune to be involved with, Mike was first and foremost a totally decent and thoroughly honourable man.

“His contribution to Dorchester Rugby Football Club cannot be overstated.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank both our treasurer at the time, John Palmer, and one of our longest serving sponsors, Richard Loder, whose support and expertise facilitated Mike’s appointment.

“I send my heartfelt condolences to Mike’s wife Jenny, his children, wider family, and friends. I can assure them that his presence and input at the club will never be forgotten.”